DOMESTIC TERRORISM

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Domestic Terrorism
Three years ago, the polling firm YouGov asked Americans whether they thought it could ever be justified for their political party to use violence to advance its goals. The overwhelming response was no. Only 8 percent of people said anything other than “never.”

This year, YouGov asked the same question — and the share saying that political violence could be somewhat justified roughly doubled. The increase spanned both Democratic and Republican respondents.

I thought of that alarming finding yesterday, after law enforcement officials charged 13 men with a violent plot that included storming the Michigan State Capitol and kidnapping Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. Conservative groups have criticized Whitmer for her attempts to control the coronavirus by restricting normal activities. In April, President Trump tweeted, “LIBERATE MICHIGAN!”

Yesterday’s arrests are the latest evidence that a small but meaningful number of Americans believe that violence is the only answer to the country’s political divisions. “We’re seeing more and more citizens expressing openness to violence as more and more partisan leaders engage in the kinds of dehumanizing rhetoric that paves the way for taking violent action,” Lee Drutman, one of the political scientists who oversaw the YouGov poll, told me.

Since May, more than 50 people have driven vehicles into peaceful protesters. Armed protesters shut down the Michigan legislature in May. Armed groups on the left and right have done battle in Oregon and Wisconsin. Extremists have attacked journalists, including an instance in Brooklyn on Wednesday night.

“Political violence in democracies often seems spontaneous: an angry mob launching a pogrom, a lone shooter assassinating a president,” Rachel Kleinfeld of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace recently wrote in The Washington Post. “But in fact, the crisis has usually been building for years.” She added, “This is where America is now.”

Washington (CNN)Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said Thursday that attacks lobbed at her by President Donald Trump's reelection campaign after authorities announced they foiled a plot to kidnap her "tells you everything you need to know" about the difference between the President and Joe Biden.

Criminal Complaint Issued
A federal criminal complaint unveiled earlier Thursday said that 13 people were arrested in the kidnapping scheme aimed at Whitmer, a Democrat. The alleged plan included plans to overthrow several state governments that the suspects "believe are violating the US Constitution," including the government of Michigan and Whitmer.

Following the announcement by federal and state officials, Trump campaign senior adviser Jason Miller lambasted the governor, who had tied Trump's rhetoric to the plot in earlier televised remarks, saying she "wakes up everyday with such hatred in her heart" for Trump.

"You know, the fact that after a plot to kidnap and to kill me, this is what they come out with. They start attacking me, as opposed to what good, decent people would do is to check in and say, 'Are you OK?' -- which is what (Democratic presidential nominee) Joe Biden did," Whitmer told CNN's Erin Burnett on "Out Front."

"I think that tells you everything that's at stake in this election," she said. “ t tells you everything you need to know about the character of the two people on this ballot that we have to choose from in a few weeks."  Trump slammed Whitmer later Thursday in a series of tweets, falsely claiming she called him a "White Supremacist" in her remarks, complaining that she did not thank him and saying she's doing a "terrible job" at governing.

"Governor Whitmer of Michigan has done a terrible job. She locked down her state for everyone, except her husband's boating activities," he wrote, urging her in another tweet to "open up your state, open up your schools, and open up your churches!"

Whitmer said that she’s asked the White House and Republicans in her state to decrease the level of inflammatory rhetoric they put out that she said helped spark the alleged plot.   "We know every time that this White House identifies me or takes a shot at me, we see an increase in rhetoric online, violent rhetoric, and so there's always a connection and certainly it's something that we've been watching. But this took it to a whole new level," the governor said.

She continued: "I have raised this very issue with this White House and asked them to bring the heat down. I have asked leaders, Republican leaders in the state — let's bring the heat down."  Whitmer has been the target of multiple death threats in light of her coronavirus response efforts and decision to issue stay-at-home orders. In April, protesters and militia gathered at the state Capitol for a rally, gridlocking the streets to call for Whitmer to lift her stay-at-home order.

Trump and other Republicans had repeatedly attacked her for the measures, with the President saying on Twitter earlier this year that residents should "liberate" the state.

CNN's Christina Carrega, Veronica Stracqualursi and Josh Campbell contributed to this report.





Plot To Kidnap And Kill Governor — Elie Honig - Domestic Terroism

(CNN)  As a prosecutor for more than 14 years, I’ve seen my share of criminal complaints charging every crime in the book, from murder on down. But Thursday's FBI complaint detailing the alleged plot to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer and overthrow several state governments is uniquely chilling: It suggests that the nation has gone down a dark new road.   Six men face federal charges and seven other men face state charges in the case. 

A few things jump out. First, this alleged plot, detailed by federal and state officials, was very plausible. It's frightening to contemplate, but the alleged kidnapping scheme could well have succeeded had it not been intercepted by law enforcement authorities. 

This was not some inflated, FBI-generated sting and it went well beyond idle, fantastical chatter or pumped-up bluster. According to the complaint's allegations, the charged defendants held actual "field training exercises;" created and detonated a test explosive device; possessed and trained with firearms; purchased a taser for use in the attack; and conducted coordinated surveillance, during the daytime and at night, of Whitmer's vacation home. 

Any sane person shudders to think what they might have done if not caught. One of the defendants allegedly said, "Snatch and grab man. Grab the f***** governor. Just grab the b****. Because at that point, we do that dude -- it's over." 

Another defendant suggested, according to the complaint, "Have one person go to her house. Knock on the door and when she answers it just cap her." These are the alleged statements of people who are not just angry, but radicalized, militarized, and willing and able to take action.

That leads to another disturbing element of the alleged plot. The defendants' sole motivation here was political. They did not, apparently, seek money or the kind of retribution seen in many murders and murder conspiracies when the target is personally known to the defendants. Rather, they appeared to targeted Whitmer purely for extremist political purposes. 

Several of the defendants allegedly discussed murdering a sitting governor or attacking the statehouse to make a political statement. Driving the point home, one of the conspirators specifically spoke of completing their attack before Election Day, officials said. 

It's impossible to ignore the broader political atmosphere here. In the past few months, President Donald Trump repeatedly has declined to unequivocally condemn white supremacist groups, including during the recent presidential debate (though several days later he told Fox's Sean Hannity "I condemn all white supremacists"). And last Spring, he tweeted, "LIBERATE MICHIGAN," in support of protesters -- some heavily armed -- that had rallied at the state Capitol against Whitmer's Covid-based restrictions. 

The details of the plot also speak to the potential dangers of online radicalization. Several of the group members met and communicated over Facebook, officials said. And, as the alleged plot developed, the defendants corresponded with one another using encrypted platforms, according to the complaint -- their steps to avoid law enforcement detection further suggesting they had real intent to carry out the plan. 

The FBI has warned that extremist groups increasingly are taking to the internet and social media to spread their message and to recruit. The alleged plot provides a tangible example of this phenomenon in action. 

This case should put to rest any controversy about whether the threat of far-right extremism is real and pervasive. This case demonstrates that there are people in the United States who are allegedly eager enough to risk their own lives and liberty to carry out a coordinated attack on a public figure purely for political purposes. And our modern technology and easy access to weapons and explosives makes it all too easy for those who are committed enough to turn plans into action. 

The FBI recently issued a new warning about the growing threat posed by right-wing extremist groups. Today’s complaint proves, in stark and chilling detail, that the FBI was absolutely correct to sound the alarm.

Washington (CNN)Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said Thursday that attacks lobbed at her by President Donald Trump's reelection campaign after authorities announced they foiled a plot to kidnap her "tells you everything you need to know" about the difference between the President and Joe Biden.

A federal criminal complaint unveiled earlier Thursday said that 13 people were arrested in the kidnapping scheme aimed at Whitmer, a Democrat. The alleged plan included plans to overthrow several state governments that the suspects "believe are violating the US Constitution," including the government of Michigan and Whitmer.

Following the announcement by federal and state officials, Trump campaign senior adviser Jason Miller lambasted the governor, who had tied Trump's rhetoric to the plot in earlier televised remarks, saying she "wakes up everyday with such hatred in her heart" for Trump.

"You know, the fact that after a plot to kidnap and to kill me, this is what they come out with. They start attacking me, as opposed to what good, decent people would do is to check in and say, 'Are you OK?' -- which is what (Democratic presidential nominee) Joe Biden did," Whitmer told CNN's Erin Burnett on "Out Front."

"I think that tells you everything that's at stake in this election," she said. "It tells you everything you need to know about the character of the two people on this ballot that we have to choose from in a few weeks."

Trump slammed Whitmer later Thursday in a series of tweets, falsely claiming she called him a "White Supremacist" in her remarks, complaining that she did not thank him and saying she's doing a "terrible job" at governing.

"Governor Whitmer of Michigan has done a terrible job. She locked down her state for everyone, except her husband’s boating activities," he wrote, urging her in another tweet to " Open up your state, open up your schools, and open up your churches!"

Whitmer said that she's asked the White House and Republicans in her state to decrease the level of inflammatory rhetoric they put out that she said helped spark the alleged plot.

"We know every time that this White House identifies me or takes a shot at me, we see an increase in rhetoric online, violent rhetoric, and so there's always a connection and certainly it's something that we've been watching. But this took it to a whole new level," the governor said.

She continued: "I have raised this very issue with this White House and asked them to bring the heat down. I have asked leaders, Republican leaders in the state -- let's bring the heat down."

Whitmer has been the target of multiple death threats in light of her coronavirus response efforts and decision to issue stay-at-home orders. In April, protesters and militia gathered at the state Capitol for a rally, gridlocking the streets to call for Whitmer to lift her stay-at-home order.  Trump and other Republicans had repeatedly attacked her for the measures, with the President saying on Twitter earlier this year that residents should "liberate" the state.

CNN's Christina Carrega, Veronica Stracqualursi and Josh Campbell contributed to this report.



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